The successful delivery of the $150 billion rail infrastructure pipeline is at risk if community engagement best practices are adhered to, a new report from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) has found.
With $20bn worth of infrastructure delayed or cancelled due to community opposition in the last decade, the current acceleration of infrastructure investment will need to take local attitudes into account.
Chief executive of IPA, Adrian Dwyer, said that rail has particular issues to confront in the construction and operation of infrastructure.
“Even though the construction impacts of a project may be short-term in nature, the long-term operational impacts of rail infrastructure means that social licence needs to be thought about early and often.”
The report, produced in partnership with LEK Consulting, found that to be effective, community consultation and engagement needed to be embedded throughout the project and be an active ingredient in decision-making processes.
Two major rail projects were highlighted for their effective engagement with community. The report noted that the active involvement of the community in the design of Sydney Metro and the Level Crossing Removal Project were best practice examples.
“The Level Crossing Removal and Sydney Metro projects have shown how extensive community engagement, underpinned by clear and simple messaging and genuine opportunities for co-design, can build trust and win over communities to the value of a project,” said Dwyer.
In both cases, community input led to changes in the design of the project, ongoing works were communicated clearly, and, where there was community opposition as in the case of the Level Crossing Removal Project, the benefits and costs were honestly communicated.
These case studies demonstrated the unique dynamics that rail projects will have to grapple with as further major projects are announced.
“The linear and long-term nature of rail infrastructure means the impacts are highly localised to rail corridors and station locations while the benefits are diffuse,” said Dwyer.